TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — At some point, you probably were suckered by the trivia question: “Which college football program has won the most Division I national championships?”
It’s a bit of a trick question. Before college football evolved into the game we know today, it was primarily known as a regional sport in the Northeast, dominated by the Ivy League schools. Regardless of consensus or non-consensus status, Princeton can claim 28 championships, Yale 27 and Harvard 12.
Their success was naturally reflected in All-American teams, which date to 1889. With such a head start, it was widely believed that no program would ever be able to match that kind of success.
Only 100 or so years later, Alabama under coach Nick Saban is posting comparable numbers.
Back then, Caspar Whitney and Walter Camp were the primary selectors. Nowadays to be recognized as a consensus All-American, a player must be named first-team by the majority of the services recognized by the NCAA: American Football Coaches Association, Walter Camp Foundation, The Associated Press, Football Writers Association of America and Sporting News.
Since 2008, Saban’s second season — when Alabama had its first showdown with Tim Tebow, Urban Meyer and Florida in the SEC Championship Game — the Crimson Tide have fielded 29 consensus All-American selections earned by 25 players.
|2008||C Antoine Caldwell, DL Terrence Cody, OL Andre Smith*|
|2009||DB Javier Arenas, DL Terrence Cody, RB Mark Ingram*, OL Mike Johnson, Rolando McClain*|
|2011||DB Mark Barron*, LB Dont’a Hightower, OL Barrett Jones*, RB Trent Richardson*|
|2012||C Barrett Jones, DB Dee Milliner*, CB C.J. Mosley*, OL Chance Warmack*|
|2013||DB Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, OL Cyrus Kouandjio, LB C.J. Mosley*|
|2014||WR Amari Cooper*, DB Landon Collins*|
|2015||RB Derrick Henry*, C Ryan Kelly, LB Reggie Ragland*, DL A’Shawn Robinson|
|2016||OL Cam Robinson*, DL Jonathan Allen*, LB Reuben Foster*, DB Minkah Fitzpatrick|
|*—Denotes unanimous selection|
That’s more than California, Clemson and Wisconsin have had during their entire football histories.
It also nearly tops every other team all time in the SEC West Division.
The SEC East’s all-time selections: Tennessee 40, Florida 32, Georgia 31, Missouri 13, Kentucky 10, Vanderbilt 6, South Carolina 4.
“Twenty-nine? Wow,” said College Football Hall of Fame coach and former executive director of the American Football Coaches Association Grant Teaff.
“For me it all goes back to the root value, of who he’s bringing in, the way he and his staff evaluate young people both in athletic talent character issues, academic ability to be there in four years and graduate in four or five. It all goes back to fundamental things.
“I’d say Coach Saban is the cream of the crop.”
Overall, the Crimson Tide have had 68 consensus All-Americans, won by 64 players, which is eighth on the all-time list. Yale leads with 100, won by 69 players.
Alabama also didn’t have its first player honored with that distinction until Fred Sington in 1930, five years after winning its first national title (1925).
That leads us to two more head-turning statistics:
- With six players named before arriving at Alabama in 2007, Saban has coached more consensus All-Americans than anyone in college football history (35). The previous leaders were Joe Paterno (33), Bobby Bowden (31) and Tom Osborne (30).
- Of the programs with the most consensus All-Americans over a 10-year span, Alabama is ahead of anyone since the first national polls were held in 1934. In terms of all-time it only trails the three previously-mentioned Ivy League powers.
Most consensus All-Americans in a 10-year period
|Florida State (1991-2000)||22|
|Notre Dame (1964-73)||19|
|Ohio State (1969-78)||19|
Note that Saban didn’t have any All-Americans in 2007, his first season at Alabama. Thus, he still can add to his decade total this season.
Should Saban match his nine-year average (3.2) he’ll have 32 consensus All-Americans — 10 more than anyone else during a 10-year span over the last century.
This is the fourth in a 10-part series examining Nick Saban’s impact over the past decade at Alabama.
- How Nick Saban’s success transformed Alabama, and not just football
- Why the national championship trophy should be named after Nick Saban
- Nick Saban changed college football’s recruiting culture